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L.A.'s Otis College Raises $1 Million with Designer-Mentored Student Fashion Show

Ruben and Isabel Toledo and David Meister were among the designers who mentored students in a fashion show benefiting Otis College of Art and Design scholarship fund.
Courtesy of Otis

“When you’ve been in the business for 20 years you become jaded, and when you’re with a student, it’s about being creative,” fashion designer David Meister said at a fundraiser on Saturday for L.A.'s Otis College of Art and Design.

Meister -- whose celebrity clients include Fergie, Tina Fey and Drew Barrymore -- is one of many designers who gathered at the Beverly Hilton Saturday night, along with the school's young, bright, up-and-comers, for a fundraiser to benefit Otis scholarship funds (86% of Otis students receive and require scholarships and financial aid). The scholarship benefit and fashion show featured designs of Otis students who were mentored for the event by established fashion designers.

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Among the mentors were Ame Austin (for Max Studio), Christina Kim (for Dosa), Meister, Isabel and Ruben Toledo (for Lane Bryant), Todd Oldham, Robert Tuggle (for Eddie Bauer) and Rod Beattie of Bleu. Austin, Tuggle and Beattie are all Otis alumni.

Designers helped with design selections and fittings. The value of their guidance is undeniable. Still, Meister maintains, “I get way more out of it from the students.”

The benefit also lauded a handful of established designers: Michael Egeck received the Creative Vision Award, Leon Max received the Design Legend Award and the Toledos received the Design Innovation Award.

After awards were handed out,  the lights dimmed and young designers put their works on display. Looks ranged from fluorescent swimsuits designed for a Barbie Malibu beach party (thanks to Mattel) to colorful, structured pieces inspired by Mexican architect Luis Barragán (thanks to Max Studio) to reinterpreted iconic dances from the 20th century such as the tango, go-go, disco and swing (Western Company). 

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“Students gave a tech treatment to the fashion they were creating, and they really went to town,” Isabel Toledo said. The designer, who created Michelle Obama's shift and matching coat for the 2009 inauguration, was impressed with the students’ ability to turn these tech-infused pieces into something beautiful and couture.

The Toledos have been working with Otis for about 15 years. Ruben, a prolific illustrator inside and outside of the fashion industry, designed the artwork, “The Spirit of Otis Fashion,” custom-made for this year’s event. The work was on sale at the silent auction along with a number of other artworks, accessories and the fashion designs made by students.  

In her opening address, MGM Studios' svp television business and legal affairs Shelley Reid, chair of the 2014 Scholarship Benefit Committee, noted that the event began 32 years ago as a boxed supper at  the Hard Rock Hotel. Saturday’s event saw 700-plus guests in Beverly Hills and raised nearly one million dollars for the scholarship fund.

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